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Norovirus Confirmed at Kansas Jimmy John’s

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) has confirmed norovirus as the cause of an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness associated with Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches restaurant in Garden City, KS. Norovirus was detected by the Kansas Health and Environmental Laboratories at KDHE in clinical specimens from three people associated with the outbreak.

KDHE has been working closely with the Finney County Health Department and the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) to investigate this outbreak since it was first reported on Dec. 18, 2013.

In addition to laboratory testing, the Finney County Health Department and KDHE have been contacting diners by telephone and an online survey to determine the scope and extent of the outbreak. As of Jan. 3 at 4 p.m., 282 people had reported becoming ill with gastrointestinal symptoms after eating at the restaurant from Dec. 10-24, 2013. Of those, 209 people were ill within 10 to 72 hours of eating, with symptoms consistent with norovirus (vomiting and/or diarrhea).

The restaurant was inspected by KDA on Dec. 18 and again on Dec. 24. The restaurant voluntarily closed from Dec. 24 through Dec. 26 to conduct a special cleaning and disinfection procedure. No new cases of illness among patrons have been reported since the restaurant reopened on Dec. 27. The restaurant fully cooperated with KDA, KDHE and the county health department during the entire investigation.

Norovirus typically causes gastrointestinal illness such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea and low-grade fever and is easily passed from person to person or through food that has been contaminated during preparation. It often causes large outbreaks, affecting a large percentage of people who were exposed.

The best way to prevent norovirus is proper handwashing, excluding ill persons from preparing food, and proper cleaning and sanitizing of food preparation areas.

© Food Safety News
  • Amorette

    An employee was probably told that, due to the seasonal rush, they had better come in to work if they wanted to keep their job and whoops! hundreds of people sick. Or the employee, who didn’t receive any sick pay, had to drag themselves into work because they needed the money.

  • Amanda

    I bet it was the mayonnaise …

    • FoodLover

      Actually, mayo is lower on the list of probable items in this case since Norovirus is linked with ill food workers, lack of hand washing, and bare hand contact of ready-to-eat foods (like the lettuce, bread, and meat). While it is possible for mayo to be contaminated with Noro, it is unlikely since it is not usually handled directly by workers (without utensil) or prepped onsite. Mayo often gets the finger pointed at it due to past outbreaks; hoowever, it is important to note that these illnesses were widely due to bacterial contamination and time-temperature abuse, not Noro. Basically, mayo used to be made with raw, unpasteurized eggs and not kept cold enough. Now, commerical mayo is made with pasteurized eggs or egg subsitutute, and is also acidified, which is an added protection against the growth of organisms. So– unless there was an ill worker portioning the mayo or smearing it onto sandwiches with bare hands, the culprit is more likely produce, bread, or other food item that requires more handling and preparation.

  • Smartie Lobo

    I worked there they hire managers with no skill in management. The jjs I worked at was awful it had just opened and there was alot of nasty stuff going on. Meat dropped on the floor during snowy weather was still wrapped up and used. Even though there were tracks on floor from sidewalk salt. The managers friends smoked in the store when no customers were present. Rotten veggies used frequently. Sick employees all the time. Bad bad management and from the jjs complaints website I see this happens more than the average sandwhich shop. I put in my 2 weeks after only working there about a month and a half.